Running myself ragged

Oh man. I have been a busy bee!

After months of slacking off (*cough*focusing on my writing*cough*), I think the corporate side of me kicked in and said, “No, this is unacceptable! Be involved in all the projects! Do all the things!” So I organized a reading, volunteered at an event, volunteered my time to a group I want to know more about, Love. Writing. Adventure. got started in earnest, I’ve been going to Saturday business classes, and I’ve had two friends visit to run the Edinburgh marathon. That’s ignoring all socializing, birthday-ing, vacationing, and general life stuff. It’s been a busy month.

The thing about it, though, is that I’m happy. I mean, really, ridiculously happy. Am I stressed? OF COURSE. But in a productive way. In the way that says, “I have to get this done in the next few hours because then I have to be at x event, and tomorrow I have to do y so there is no way to procrastinate further.” It’s a good kind of stress.

That said, I’m completely exhausted. My head hurts, and all I want to do it stay in bed all day. I think it’s time for some tea, pajamas, and Disney movies. I’ll see you guys when I’m rested up. So, in a year…maybe.

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Sometimes motivation is really hard to find, y’all

Why is it that right when you want it, motivation runs and hides? It buries itself under a rock in the garden like the spare key you hid years ago that you suddenly need and can’t find. You know it’s there, it’s lurking somewhere, just not where you’re searching.

I am meant to be working on my dissertation. Right now, this very second, while I sit here writing this blog post, I should be writing my story. My story that I’m excited about, that I think about, whose characters I love getting to know. But I’m not. I’m looking at the sunshine (can’t be outside, have to work) and beating myself up for not writing.

Partly it’s because it’s slow going right now. I know where things are headed but I’m full of questions. Partly it’s because my dissertation supervisor (the nerd in me loves to be able to say that) has tasked me with writing in a new way that will be very, very beneficial to me as a whole but is not how I write naturally. Partly it’s because I’m scared. I’m tacking some big questions, I have things I want to ask and things I want to answer, the plot and my kind of belief about human nature are all wrapped up together. (I was described by somebody I admire as being a “puir wee Calvinist” last night, and in this context I think it’s accurate.)

As with any artistic endeavour I’m split between being so excited about this project I can’t stop thinking about it and so petrified I’m going to screw it up (which I will! That’s what a first draft is for!) that I’m worried about starting. And then there’s the fact that writing it just feels like a slog. I knew this day would come, when writing would move from excitement to work but I wasn’t expecting it to come with this story.

Happily I just got a message from a friend asking what a bunch of us are up to because it’s “criminally nice outside.” Maybe I’ll procrastinate in the sunshine after all.

(Pssssst! I also had a ridiculous moment on a plane the other day. Check Love.Writing.Adventure. for details!)

Airports

There is something melancholy about airports.

Maybe it’s the constant sense of ending and beginning, of adventure and homecoming overlapping. There is a constant layering of hellos and goodbyes, often physical as well as emotional. Arrivals above, departures below. Arrivals below, departures above. Our lives crisscross, we get off of a plane and see a waiting area full of people ready to board the same plane to the city we’ve just left. Over and over, back and forth, planes circle and land and others take off.

I always want to cry in airports. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I hide in a stall and let myself cry silently until there is no more mascara left on my hands when I wipe my cheeks. Sometimes I choke it back, spending anxious seconds willing my eyes not to overflow, willing the tears to go back where they came from. Yesterday I stubbornly kept staring at my book, waiting for the words to clear up so I could keep reading.

I don’t like to show much emotion in public. I don’t like to show much emotion past, “This is really fun!” period. But airports don’t feel public to me. They’re intimate spaces where we’re all under the same constraints, and they’re the only thing I understand completely. I am the person who can glide through security, who has her plastic bag out and ready to go, who jokes with security and makes conversation with the gate agents. I slip into airports as easily as some of my friends slip into languages, immediately becoming a part of a system alien to most people I know.

We have intimate moments in airports, too. Hellos and goodbyes and fears and hopes and nerves and excitement become a pulsing jumble that moves through the building, growing and growing, until little bits of it fly away, drive away, and the last plane disembarks leaving it quiet, silent, dark. It’s just for a few hours, it’s just until morning, but it’s the only time it gets to be alone. And, come to think of it, that’s a little sad, too.

Leaving the Elephants In: Life as a TCK

So, for the most part, TCKs tend to be well-adjusted, comfortable with change, confident, and filled with wanderlust. Sure, there’s a part of us that longs to settle down – many of us do! – but there is something deep in us that says, “Are you sure you want to stay here? I mean, really sure?” If we found home, I’m not totally convinced we’d know what to do with it. We are geographic commitmentphobes. But you’ll never see somebody walk so confidently through an airport they’ve never been to, I can guarantee that. I can navigate strange airports more accurately than I can navigate around cities I lived in for years.

But there is loneliness that comes with being a TCK, too. It’s isolating. It’s feeling like everybody around you is marching along, perfectly in sync, and you put your shoes on the wrong feet.

Today I am living a life I am perfectly happy with, a life I chose and worked hard to make happen, and I broke down crying because I’m missing major events in my friends’ lives. My friend Brit got engaged. My friend Dre’s babies turn one next month. People are buying houses and getting promoted and doing the things that make up a life, and I am so far away from them I can’t just pick up the phone to talk to them. I hear their voices in Instagram videos, I see their faces on Snapchat.

But then, yesterday a friend I haven’t seen since I was 14 suggested I be his +1 to a wedding in Thailand this fall. My life is a balance of feeling so far away I could cry and feeling like we all have the potential to be right back together again within 24 hours.

You want to know what being a TCK is really like? That sums in up in a nutshell. It’s lonely, but it’s wonderful. I’m constantly aching to see the people I love, but I’m connected to so many people I can’t think of a continent where I wouldn’t have a friend.

You want to know what it feels like, though? Well, when I’m around non-TCKs (especially in the States), it feels like I am a fuzzy version of myself. I don’t have clearly defined edges, because that would imply that my borders are impermeable, that they even exist, that people understand them when they see them. No, I fade, dissolving bit by bit into the space I’m in. My core is visible, but you’d never be able to exactly trace the transition from shoulder to sky if you were looking at a picture of me. When I’m around TCKs, I’m vivid, boldly outlined, all bright colours and clear memories. I expand and take up all the space in the room because I am so full of stories and laughter and the ease that comes from being allowed to tell a story and “leave the elephants in” as one friend put it.

You see, when I tell stories to non-TCKs, I edit them. I don’t talk about the frustrations, because that looks ungrateful. I don’t talk about the initial weirdness because I neither want to convince people that travel is scary nor exoticize the places I’ve lived. I don’t talk about the luxury, because that makes me a snob. So when I talk about the traffic problems in Bangkok and how construction slows everything to a stop and you sympathize, what you’re not hearing is that I always enjoyed it because I could watch the elephants drag steel beams around. But if you’re German but grew up in Tanzania, Singapore, and Mexico, then you know how bizarre things get and I can relax. I can leave the elephants in, because I know that somewhere in your stories, there’s something you’re used to leaving out, too.

Maybe what it comes down to is I want to be able to live both lives. I want to be able to live all of my lives – to live out every life I’ve left behind, every corner of the globe I’ve been forced to abandon or have abandoned of my own free will. I want to see who I would have been had I stayed in each place. I never feel whole – I always feel like something is missing or that I have more than enough. My heart is hollow or overflowing, and it changes from hour to hour.

That’s what being a TCK is. It’s never, ever being able to be just any one thing. It’s never being able to stop and just be normal, because part of you thinks that normal is boring and the other part of you thinks you’re not strong enough to be normal. It’s being proud of being different and wanting to fit in so badly you think you’ll explode every time you try and fail. It’s feeling like if you have everything, if you are everything, you can be nothing, too. It’s seeing that in claiming every identity you could have, you no longer get to leave any behind, and that in never feeling entitled to claim any identity, you might not even have a self to express.

So, if you want to know what being a TCK is, it’s all of that. I know it might not seem positive if you haven’t lived it, but trust me – I wouldn’t change it for the world.

“I’m 27 years old, I’ve no money and no prospects.”

So, as is usually the case when I have writer’s block or otherwise feel like procrastinating, I’m watching the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice. It’s funny, this movie is one of my favourites – it’s beautiful, it’s fun, it’s sweet (even if Mr. Darcy should be voted the Romantic Lead Most Likely To Make Me Want To Strangle Him with his creepy staring and inability to actually interact like a normal human being).

Well, I actually had to pause the movie after watching the scene where Charlotte announces her engagement. Lizzie protests (“But he’s ridiculous!”) and Charlotte shuts her down with the line above.

Well, can we all just pause and say a brief prayer of thanks that this isn’t a concern anymore? I mean, I’m 27. I have no job, no money, no boyfriend…pretty much nothing but cats and student loan debt. But there is nothing in the world that could pressure me into marrying somebody as atrocious as some of the men in this movie. (Bingley is silly but sweet, Darcy…well, if he’d stop being such a creep, he’d be okay. The rest of them? Pah!)

I was talking to a friend about this last night. I feel a little too old for some of the stuff I had patience for the last time I was single. Internet dating? No thanks. Putting up with weird conversation just to give somebody a chance? Nope, not for me. Letting myself fall for somebody who doesn’t actually want a similar life to the one I want? Sorry, thanks for playing. Next! 

I’m not old. I turn 28 this month, and it feels good. Like turning 27, turning 28 feels like it’s exactly right. My late 20s fit me in a way the rest of my 20s didn’t, and I’m so so thankful for that. I’m thankful for a family that was supportive when I quit my job to go back to school. I’m thankful for friends – single, dating, and married – who give me great examples of how great life can be at any stage. I’m thankful for everybody in my life who taught me the world is a large, exciting place and I can explore it if I want to. Because the thing is, I want to. I want to explore every corner of the Earth and I want to experience everything it has to offer, and I want that excitement now.

I have incredible friends that have chosen to settle down young, to get married and have kids and get a mortgage and do the things that adults do. This is the exciting part of life for them, this is what they want, and I’m thrilled for them. And when I disappear to yet another country, when I make yet another decision purely on the basis that it felt right and I’m responsible for nobody but myself and my cats, so why not? They’re excited for me.

And so I’m eternally grateful that I don’t live in a time where this is a weird thing, or a looked-down-upon thing. Because I’m in love with the life I am building, and it’s the kind of life that could only happen now.

I Am Not A Poet, Except For Maybe Sometimes?

About a month ago, I went to an open mic night I’d heard about. I like open mic nights. I like the combination of experience and knock-kneed newbies, the featured poets and the new storytellers. You’ve got five minutes and a mic, and whatever happens, happens.

The whole time I was there, I was kind of in awe. Poetry is not my forte. I like prose. I like the way I can go on and on and on or keep things short and simple. I like the look of a paragraph, the indentations on the page, the way thought after thought can string together. Poems intimidate me. They’re so visual, every line break adding meaning, enjambment giving emphasis or double meaning or….well, yeah. Poetry is hard and scary and beautiful and wonderful and I rarely try to write it. Mostly out of respect for the form, but also because I hate failing at things, and I think I would fail as a poet.

But something about that open mic made me say, “Hey. I’m gonna give this a shot.” So for the last month I’ve been working on a poem. Yes, you read that right. One poem. Sometimes people get confused and think that poetry should just flow out, that it’s all emotional and not about storytelling at all, that poetry is some kind of lazy form that just gets spouted out and left alone.

Wrong.

I have stared at some of these stanzas far, far longer than I’ve ever worked on a paragraph. I sat for two hours one night and changed three words. And then I changed two of them back to what they’d been originally.

So last night I let people read them for the first time. I went on a killing spree yesterday, you see, I killed all my darlings, every line I loved from the very first draft of this poem is gone. And I needed to see if it worked. I was completely terrified, I’ll admit it. You see, I’ve gotten to know a lot of really talented poets over the past few months, and I’ve seen incredible performers. What makes me think that I can do that? What makes me think I deserve to be a part of that world? Aside from arrogance, that is. Aside from some part of me saying, “You’re talented, too.” I mean, it’s just 5 minutes and a mic. It won’t kill me.

I sent my scary little poem off to two trusted friends, caring people and talented poets, and I waited. I’m in the middle of submitting stories to contests and sending out job applications and waiting for grades, and this terrified me more than any of those things. And the crazy thing is, they liked it. They liked my poem. My poem with its month of revision after revision, the poem that I have recorded myself reading over and over, that I have painstakingly read out loud and listened to over and over and over again, looking for a faulty rhythm or a repeated word…they think it works. They like it.

Now I just need to figure out how to read it in public without dying of stage fright.